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Monday, January 11, 2021

Hoar frost in northern New York
Photo by Jeff Worrall

"God's Love, So Sure, Shall Still Endure"

Message summary:  All through history earthly thrones and kingdoms have risen and fallen. Most of us have not lived through the rise and fall of a nation but some have, such as our readers we hear from in Africa. We may feel entitled that it could never happen where we live or at least in our lifetime. But history has a tendency to repeat itself. So, in light of earthly thrones and kingdoms falling where should our focus be?

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Jeff is a friend we've known since the early 1980's who, along with his wife and family, now live in northern New York state, not far from the Saint Lawrence Seaway and Canadian border. As you might expect that area has a rather long, cold winter. Several years ago we visited them and drove through a lake affect blizzard to get there.

I called Jeff and his wife Lois a couple of days ago and he shared some photos he had taken of the hoar frost such as seen in our lead photo.

"Hoar" (the correct spelling is very important in this case) frost is similar to dew and happens on cold and clear nights when water vapor (which is a gas) freezes onto a below-freezing surface. Because of this process, it actually skips the liquid phase in the deposition process. It makes for some beautiful scenery, probably even more stunning when the sun rises and the ice crystals have a glistening appearance.

The definition of
hoary from Merriam Webster is:
1. gray or white with or as if with age bowed his hoary head
2. extremely old, ANCIENT

The Bible uses the word "hoary" several times (in older versions).

One verse describes the same type of frost that Jeff saw: "And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath engendered it?" (Job 38:29).

Others describe the aged: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32). "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).

I recalled singing the word "hoary" in a hymn
but couldn't recall which one. While preparing this message I walked upstairs to ask Brooksyne if she recalled singing the word in a hymn and without hesitation she answered, "The Love of God".

The second verse of the great hymn starts: "When hoary time shall pass away, and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall". What does "hoary time" mean? Some hymnals change this to "When years of time shall pass away" which catches the sense because most of us don't use "hoary" in our vocabulary (actually do any of us?). It wouldn't work rhythmically for the hymn, but a better sense would be "When long, long years of time shall pass away".

When I consider the conditions in our country and throughout the world today this sure gets my attention! All through history earthly thrones and kingdoms have risen and fallen. Most of us have not lived through the rise and fall of a nation but some have, such as our readers we hear from in Africa.

We may feel entitled that it could never happen where we live or at least in our lifetime. But history has a tendency to repeat itself.

So, in light of earthly thrones and kingdoms falling where should our focus be? The chorus responds:

God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Can I get a Hallelujah!

Be encouraged!

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer:  Merciful Father, life's journey is filled with obstacles that tend to disrupt and potentially block the light You provide to those who of us who reside in a darkened, sin-filled world. We prefer peace, joy, and love to accompany our every move and yet we have to shuffle through the litter of sin and decay daily because we're not home yet. Remind us that though we presently reside in our fallen earthly kingdom, our permanent citizenship is secured in Your heavenly kingdom where there will be no end, where You will rule with justice and righteousness forevermore. Keep us steady until that event occurs. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Love Of God" click to play
"The Love of God"  Video

"Royal Telephone"  Video  Jimmy Little  -  As I (Brooksyne) was studying the hymn background to "The Love of God" written by F.M. Lehman I read that he also wrote "The Royal Telephone". It's not full of rich theology like "The Love of God" but is more a fun type of gospel song based on the wonder of a new-fangled invention that swept over America in the early 1900's. For the old-timers (which I now count myself among them) this was a popular and fun song to sing in the 60's and we sang it often when I was a child in our little church, always accompanied by hand clapping. You might enjoy the photos posted that also reminisce of an era goneby as well as the music accompaniment.

"Do It Again"" click to play
"Do It Again"  Video 
"Your promise still stands, great is your faithfulness"

What is hoarfrost? (accuweather)  A beautiful photo of hoar frost from the site.

Conestoga River, Lancaster County, PA (Photo by Mike Book)
Our friend Mike Book took this photo of the Conestoga River here in Lancaster County, PA
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Snowy path
A snowy path along Donegal Creek from a previous winter storm.

Hoar frost (Jeff Worrall)
Hoar frost in northern New York
Photo by Jeff Worrall

We need some humor in these troubling times since "A merry heart doeth good like medicine". Jackline, a reader from South Sudan sent this one:

A rabbit entered a shop and asked: "Do you have carrots?". They said "No, we don't." The following day the rabbit came to the shop and asked again, "Do you have carrots?"
They replied angrily, "We said we don't have carrots. If you come back asking, we're gonna put a nail in your head with a hammer!"
The third day the rabbit came back and yet asked, "Do you have a hammer? They replied "NO". He said "What about nails?" They said "NO". Then he calmly asked, "Do you have carrots?"

(Brooksyne's note: If you didn't get it first time around, read it again slowly. Ester and I got the humor second time around and it is cute. I can almost see this played out on "Bugs Bunny" a cartoon I watched faithfully as a young child.)

For further study:

Sociologists and anthropologists have described the stages of the rise and fall of the world’s great civilizations. Scottish philosopher Alexander Tytler (1747–1813) of the University of Edinburg noted eight stages that articulate well what history discloses. Although formulated over 200 years ago they provide a great deal of perspective to what we are currently experiencing.

Let’s look at each of the eight stages. The names of the stages are from Tyler’s book and are presented in bold text. The brief observations are by Charles Pope.

From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in the crucible. The Ancient Jews were in bondage for 400 years in Egypt. The Christian faith and the Church came out of 300 years of persecution. Western Christendom emerged from the chaotic conflicts during the decline of the Roman Empire and the movements of often fierce “barbarian” tribes. American culture was formed by the injustices that grew in colonial times. Sufferings and injustices cause—even force—spiritual growth. Suffering brings wisdom and demands a spiritual discipline that seeks justice and solutions.

From spiritual growth to great courage – Having been steeled in the crucible of suffering, courage and the ability to endure great sacrifice come forth. Anointed leaders emerge and people are summoned to courage and sacrifice (including loss of life) in order to create a better, more just world for succeeding generations. People who have little or nothing, also have little or nothing to lose and are often more willing to live for something more important than themselves and their own pleasure. A battle is begun, a battle requiring courage, discipline, and other virtues.

From courage to liberty – As a result of the courageous fight, the foe is vanquished and liberty and greater justice emerges. At this point a civilization comes forth, rooted in its greatest ideals. Many who led the battle are still alive, and the legacy of those who are not is still fresh. Heroism and the virtues that brought about liberty are still esteemed. The ideals that were struggled for during the years in the crucible are still largely agreed upon.

From liberty to abundance – Liberty ushers in greater prosperity, because a civilization is still functioning with the virtues of sacrifice and hard work. But then comes the first danger: abundance. Things that are in too great an abundance tend to weigh us down and take on a life of their own. At the same time, the struggles that engender wisdom and steel the soul to proper discipline and priorities move to the background. Jesus said that man’s life does not consist in his possessions. But just try to tell that to people in a culture that starts to experience abundance. Such a culture is living on the fumes of earlier sacrifices; its people become less and less willing to make such sacrifices. Ideals diminish in importance and abundance weighs down the souls of the citizens. The sacrifices, discipline, and virtues responsible for the thriving of the civilization are increasingly remote from the collective conscience; the enjoyment of their fruits becomes the focus.

From abundance to complacency – To be complacent means to be self-satisfied and increasingly unaware of serious trends that undermine health and the ability to thrive. Everything looks fine, so it must be fine. Yet foundations, resources, infrastructures, and necessary virtues are all crumbling. As virtues, disciplines, and ideals become ever more remote, those who raise alarms are labeled by the complacent as “killjoys” and considered extreme, harsh, or judgmental.

From complacency to apathy – The word apathy comes from the Greek and refers to a lack of interest in, or passion for, the things that once animated and inspired. Due to the complacency of the previous stage, the growing lack of attention to disturbing trends advances to outright dismissal. Many seldom think or care about the sacrifices of previous generations and lose a sense that they must work for and contribute to the common good. “Civilization” suffers the serious blow of being replaced by personalization and privatization in growing degrees. Working and sacrificing for others becomes more remote. Growing numbers becoming increasingly willing to live on the carcass of previous sacrifices. They park on someone else’s dime, but will not fill the parking meter themselves. Hard work and self-discipline continue to erode.

From apathy to dependence – Increasing numbers of people lack the virtues and zeal necessary to work and contribute. The suffering and the sacrifices that built the culture are now a distant memory. As discipline and work increasingly seem “too hard,” dependence grows. The collective culture now tips in the direction of dependence. Suffering of any sort seems intolerable. But virtue is not seen as the solution. Having lived on the sacrifices of others for years, the civilization now insists that “others” must solve their woes. This ushers in growing demands for governmental, collective solutions. This in turns deepens dependence, as solutions move from personal virtue and local, family-based sacrifices to centralized ones.

From dependence back to bondage – As dependence increases, so does centralized power. Dependent people tend to become increasingly dysfunctional and desperate. Seeking a savior, they look to strong central leadership. But centralized power corrupts, and tends to usher in increasing intrusion by centralized power. Injustice and intrusion multiplies. But those in bondage know of no other solutions. Family and personal virtue (essential ingredients for any civilization) are now effectively replaced by an increasingly dark and despotic centralized control, hungry for more and more power. In this way, the civilization is gradually ended, because people in bondage no longer have the virtues necessary to fight. Another possibility is that a more powerful nation or group is able to enter, by invasion or replacement, and destroy the final vestiges of a decadent civilization and replace it with their own culture.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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